190925 Trump Pelosi
US President Donald Trump at UN Headquarters in New York and US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, in Washington, DC. Image Credit: AFP

Washington: Top congressional Democrats walked out of a fractious White House meeting on Syria policy Wednesday when US President Donald Trump attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a “third-rate politician.”

One of the Democrats attending the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, said Trump launched into a “nasty diatribe” against them, while Pelosi said the president experienced a “meltdown.”

The toxic exchange was the latest sign of the dramatically deteriorating relations between Trump and Pelosi since she launched an impeachment investigation against him last month.

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“He was insulting, particularly to the Speaker.... He called her a third-rate politician,” said Schumer after they abruptly left the White House meeting on Trump’s controversial troop pullout from northern Syria.

Other lawmakers from both parties remained inside, he noted.

Pelosi said Trump appeared “very shaken up” by an overwhelming bipartisan vote in the House earlier Wednesday condemning his troop pullback, which critics say effectively gave Turkey a green light to invade northern Syria and attack Kurdish militia.

“What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown. Sad to say,” Pelosi added.

House veteran Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat, said he and others were “offended deeply” by Trump’s treatment of Pelosi.

Trump has repeatedly disparaged Pelosi on Twitter in the weeks since the probe began.

Hoyer sounded alarmed at the intensity of the White House confrontation.

“I’ve been in many, many, many meetings like this,” he said. “Never have I seen a president treat so disrespectfully a co-equal branch of the government of the United States.”

Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham rejected the Democratic version of events, saying the president had been “measured and decisive,” and that Pelosi walking out was “baffling but not surprising.”

“Dem ‘leadership’ chose to storm out & whine to camera,” Grisham tweeted. “Everyone else stayed to work on behalf of our country.”

Addressing reporters after the talks, top House Republican Kevin McCarthy likewise accused Pelosi of “storming out” and exhibiting behaviour “unbecoming of a speaker.”

The meeting was the first face-to-face encounter between Trump and Pelosi since her explosive September 24 statement announcing a formal impeachment inquiry.

Pelosi said the investigation did not come up during the meeting.